Today I want to praise extravagance. Since the go-go years on Wall Street that brought about our current economic woes, and since more of us have become aware of our ecological footprints, extravagance has gotten a bad name, but there are multiple extravagances, and it is some of those that I wish to praise, in no particular order.
• This morning, the deep green of the dogwood leaves was broken by the arrival of a male cardinal, extravagantly red, noisy, and exuberantly checking out the state of the dogwood berries, or whatever else in the tree might have been edible. Other birds manage to attract mates without being quite so eye-catching (and as Julie Zickefoose has noted, being eye-catching is often dangerous for cardinals), but such colorful perfection was this morning’s blessing.
• Berries themselves. The next time someone complains about the seeds of blackberries, raspberries, or strawberries, remind them that the fruits we and the birds crave are really seed dispersal mechanisms. Those luscious berries lure us in so that seeds can be spread more widely than the parent plants can spread them, and aren’t we lucky that the universe opted for this extravagant method of plant reproduction?
• Seeds in general. Those of us who aren’t faithful deadheaders of spent blossoms find that birds help themselves to our coneflowers and coreopsis, and in the process, scatter seed and make new plants. If we don’t immediately sweep up all the purchased seed spilled under our birdfeeders, we are rewarded by free sunflowers and millet. Let’s hear it for the extravagant generosity of free plants.
• The extravagant laziness of house cats. Is there anything more totally relaxed than a fat middle-aged cat sacked out on the sofa? (Or more generally graceful than cats, anyway?)
• The energy and generosity of certain young humans. This afternoon, I was privileged to attend a benefit for a cancer patient, organized by her young adult children and their friends. They had acquired donations of goods and services ranging from massages to meals to football weekends, and people who knew the woman in question packed the town hall and opened their hearts and their wallets. Love is always a good kind of extravagance.